By Spencer Ackerman
Things that don’t make for appropriate pillow talk: Titan intercontinental ballistic missiles. Photo: Jurvetson/Flickr
There once was a military contractor who met a great woman at a professional conference. Before long, he was so taken with her that he told her secrets about America’s deadliest weapons. You don’t want to be that guy.
According to an affidavit from an FBI counterintelligence agent, Benjamin Pierce Bishop, a contractor for the U.S. Pacific Command, was that guy. The U.S. Attorney in Hawaii announced charges of communicating classified national defense information to a person not entitled to receive such information against Bishop on Tuesday, shortly after he was arrested.
Bishop is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. And the affidavit of FBI Special Agent Scott Freeman stops short of accusing Bishop’s unnamed paramour, a Chinese national, of being an outright spy. (In other words, if the government suspects her of being a Chinese Anna Chapman, it’s yet to charge her with espionage.) But it alleges that Bishop chatted openly with her about U.S. nuclear systems and “war plans,” and as their affair wore on, she had him checking on what the United States knew about sensitive Chinese naval systems.
Bishop allegedly met the woman identified only as Person 1, a “27-year-old female citizen of the People’s Republic of China” in the United States on a student visa, at a defense conference. By June 2011, the two had begun a relationship. So far, so unremarkable. But by June 2012, Bishop supposedly e-mailed Person 1 classified information on “existing war plans, information regarding nuclear weapons, and relations with international partners.” Unbeknownst to Bishop, he was or would soon be under physical and electronic surveillance.
The surveillance trap caught much more than just that one e-mail. Bishop is accused of blabbing to Person 1 about “planned deployment of U.S. strategic nuclear systems”; “the ability of the U.S. to detect low and medium range ballistic missiles of foreign governments”; and, on multiple occasions, “the deployment of U.S. early warning radar systems in the Pacific rim.”
Person 1 allegedly used Bishop as her intern. While saying that she didn’t want him telling her any secrets, she queried him on what Western powers “know about about the operation of a particular naval asset of the People’s Republic of China.” The FBI affidavit accuses Bishop of “misrepresenting” his credentials to an active-duty officer in order to get classified answers to his lover’s question.
Again, these are all accusations, not proof, and the coming months will reveal if the Justice Department’s real target is Person 1 and suspected persistent Chinese espionage. But whether Bishop is acquitted, convicted or pleads out, he’s now a glaring cautionary tale. The defense world might be incestuous, but pillow talk about classified information will ruin your life.
- Defense worker in Hawaii gave nuke secrets to Chinese, FBI says (staradvertiser.com)
- Pacific Command contractor charged with spying (foxnews.com)
- Pacific Command contractor charged with spying (cnsnews.com)
- Pacific Command contractor charged with spying (stripes.com)
- US Army lieutenant colonel accused of passing nuclear secrets to Chinese mistress (rt.com)
- Man accused of espionage worked on deterrence (cnsnews.com)
- Pacific Command contractor charged with spying (dailystar.com.lb)
- Feds: Defense contractor relayed US weapons info – Boston.com (boston.com)